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Kiss of the Dragon

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Kiss of the Dragon

Starring: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda
Director: Crhis Nahon
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: July 2001
Genres: Action, Martial Arts


*Also starring: Tcheky Karyo, Burt Kwouk, Laurence Ashley, Max Ryan



Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
1½ stars out of 4

At first, "Kiss of the Dragon" had me. The action film, co-scripted by Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita," "The Fifth Element") and Robert Mark Kamen from a story by star Jet Li, quickly established itself as a grisly, single-minded, hard-core martial arts comic book, with fighting, fighting and more fighting. Fair enough, sounds good. But as the minutes ticked by, the whole thing grew tiresome. After it became obvious that Jet Li's character was absolutely unstoppable, the tension faded away. I looked for something else to occupy my attention, but there simply was nothing else there.

Jet Li plays Liu Jian, China's top cop, sent from Beijing to Paris to assist local officers in protecting an important Chinese citizen. In addition to being a martial arts master, Liu also has a way with acupuncture needles. He can use them to make someone relax, paralyze a foe or execute a move called "Kiss of the Dragon," which causes the recipient to bleed from all orifices and die a particularly painful death. God, this guy would be such a hit in Texas.

Things turn sour for Liu when the man he is supposed to protect is murdered by the police officers he is supposed to work with. Inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo), the ringleader of the gang, frames Liu for the killing, forcing Liu to hide in the red light district while trying to sort things out. Along the way, he meets Jessica (Bridget Fonda) a North Dakota mother, hooker and recovering junkie. Well, almost recovering. Periodically, her pimp forcibly injects her with drugs to keep her compliant, although that shouldn't be much of a problem, since he is also holding her daughter hostage. And who is this horrible, horrible man? Inspector Richard, of course.

Liu is presented as a man focused on his work to the exclusion of all else. Aside from rage, he shows little emotion, save for one scene where Jessica pokes into his personal life. "Are you married?" she asks. "No." "Do you have a girlfriend?" "No." "Are you gay?" Finally, we see a spark of emotion - panic - as he quickly replies, "No, I am not gay. I am NOT gay." OK, so it appears Liu has no sexual relationships in his life. Hmmm. Perhaps there are some other tricks he can do with his magic needles.

Leaping from one seedy location to the next, "Kiss of the Dragon" keeps the action churning, with each new battle more absurd than the last. One takes place on a passenger-packed boat, with bad cops firing automatic weapons in all directions. The scene is great eye candy, but it made me wonder where the city's other police officers were during the shooting spree. Are all of them corrupt or did Inspector Richard assign them to work in the suburbs for the day?

Who knows and who cares? With a hammy performance by Karyo, a flat performance from Fonda and a non-performance from Jet Li, "Kiss of the Dragon" cares not a whit about logic or personality. This is simply an exercise in hyper-violent showboating, a nihilistically pure look at impurity.

Copyright 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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